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Live Mechanics Changes Hands

Live Mechanics has found a new home under the umbrella of Jack Saadia's Fashion Exchange LLC.

NEW YORK — Live Mechanics has found a new home under the umbrella of Jack Saadia’s Fashion Exchange LLC, a New York City–based company that also owns Fried Denim and Crest Jeans. Live Mechanics split from its former licensee, Check Group LLC, in October, after nearly two years of partnership.

“My vision and dream for Live Mechanics was not in tune with Check Group’s vision and dream,” said Osa Odiase, who founded the streetwear label in 2000. “Now I can dictate the pace of the brand and make sure it is what I want it to be.”

In recent seasons, Live Mechanics has exploded at streetwear retailers as an alternative to the mainstay hip-hop apparel brands that have lost the young man’s attention. With its uplifting messages and trend-right street aesthetic, the brand has made fans of celebrities and average teens alike.

But with that rapid growth, explained Odiase, has come compromise of the brand, thanks to a ballooning distribution. As a result, Live Mechanics’ first order of business under Fashion Exchange will be to rein in its retail account base, which includes more than 250 stores in the U.S. Odiase plans to significantly pull back on Live Mechanics’ department store allocation and reestablish the brand at specialty boutiques like Up Against The Wall and Vinnie’s Styles in Brooklyn—retailers that signed on with Live Mechanics in its early years.

“Department stores haven’t represented the line very well,” explained Odiase. “Merchandisers would ask us to redesign the line, like make a T-shirt to match a pair of jeans. We were making stuff that wasn’t from the heart.”

Odiase believes that his new licensing partnership with Saadia, called Cornerstone LLC, will enable him greater creative control over his product. Live Mechanics’ fall ’08 line—the first to be produced by Fashion Exchange—will bear marks of a more upscale product, including “heavily designed” fashion pieces, at correspondingly upscale prices.

(The label’s spring ’08 line, which was sold sparingly in anticipation of Live Mechanics’ Check Group breakup, will be produced by Odiase and, he said, “shipped on time.”)

In addition, Fashion Exchange is encouraging Odiase to explore additional categories for Live Mechanics, including a women’s wear counterpart, accessories, footwear and limited-edition runs for Live Mechanics’ men’s line. Odiase is wasting little time taking advantage of his new owner’s many manufacturing partners and will launch belts, caps and wristwatches at MAGIC in February. The company will also debut a capsule women’s collection at the show, called Lively by Live Mechanics.

Those categories, along with international expansion, will enable the brand to make up for lost department store sales, said Odiase. And in accordance with Economics 101, as Live Mechanics’ supply decreases, demand should increase. “We’ve created a hunger in the market for Live Mechanics,” explained Odiase, himself a trained economist. “It’s a very strategic growth plan.”